Monday, July 23, 2012

Get a Taste of Local History in the Parks

"If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday." - Pearl Buck

If you frequent the Monmouth County Park System parks you surely have enjoyed the trails, playgrounds, nature, and programs we have to offer. But did you know how much history lies within our parks? Take some time to learn about local history by visiting the following sites:

Bayshore Waterfront Park, Port Monmouth: Located along the Sandy Hook Bay, many visitors come to stroll the beach, enjoy the free Summer Seining, or fish off the pier. But this picturesque location is also home to the Bayshore Waterfront Park Activity Center (aka Seabrook-Wilson House), which is the oldest standing house in the region. The building dates back to the early 1700s. The Activity Center has limited hours, but is scheduled to be open to the public on August 4 & August 18 from 11am-5pm for visitors to view exhibits about the ecology of the Sandy Hook Bay, the history of the house, and the connection between the two of them.

Hartshorne Woods Park, Highlands & Locust: This 787-acre site is popular to hikers, bicyclists, and nature enthusiasts due to over 14 miles of trails. But did you know that a large section of the sites was a military installation in the 1940s? During WWII, batteries for heavy artillery were built on the site to modernize coastal defense efforts. These concrete and earth encasements or bunkers protected both personnel and equipment. These structures can still be viewed at the site today in the Rocky Point section (1402 Portland Road, Highlands).

Historic Longstreet Farm, Holmdel: The sights, sounds, and smells of rural Monmouth County in the 1890s were recreated on this 9 acre living history site. Interpreters dress in period clothing and show both daily and seasonal agricultural and domestic activities that would have been done on a local farm in the 19th century (i.e., milking the cows, plowing the fields, blacksmithing, and more). The site is open daily, year round, from 10am-4pm (during the summer hours are extended to 9am-5pm). Upcoming demonstrations include: 19th Century Woodworking Demonstration on Saturday, August 4 from 1-3pm; Penny Rug Demonstration on Sunday, August 12 from 1-3pm; and Harvest Home Festival on Sunday, September 30 from 11am-5pm.

Tatum Park, Middletown: Many visitors to this 366-acre park come for the trails or for programs at one of its two activity centers. But a visit to the Red Hill Activity Center located off of Red Hill Road offers a bit of local history. The Heath Wing was built in 1981 to honor Mary and Clinton Heath. In 1885, Clinton Heath, a freed slave from North Carolina, became the first black farmer to settle in Middletown. The Heath Wing features a permanent display of memorabilia from the county's early black community.

Thompson Park, Lincroft: Known for being the location for Park System Headquarters, this park was established with a donation of 215 acres from the estate of Geraldine Thompson. Once the home of "Brookdale Farm", the site was a premier thoroughbred racing horse breeding/training facility. Today, the park remembers Mrs. Thompson's belief that "children have to feel the ground beneath them and go out into the woods and see the trees and birds." The Thompson family residence, a grand colonial revival mansion, had been used as the Visitor Center until it was destroyed by a fire in 2006. The Visitor Center has since been rebuilt and allows visitors to learn more about Mrs. Thompson and Brookdale Farm in an exhibit on the first floor which is open to the public Monday-Friday from 8am-4:30pm and Saturday-Sunday, 10am-4pm.

Historic Walnford, Upper Freehold: This gorgeous park seems to be a hidden gem in the western most section of Monmouth County. Visitors can learn more about the Waln family and the evolution of Walnford over two centuries - from an 18th century industrial village and family farm to an elegant country estate. Take a leisurely stroll through the picturesque locale and view the large, elegant home built in 1774, the 19th century gristmill, and the farm buildings. The gristmill opens its doors on weekends April-November from 1-4pm as knowledgeable staff describe the workings of the mill. Weekend drop-in programs are also available; upcoming free programs include Ice Cream, Edible History on Sunday, August 5 from 3-4pm.

Don't miss out on all the Park System has to offer. There's something new to find each and every day!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Park System Trip Gives Rare Glimpse at Terracotta Warriors

This summer has become even more exciting with the Park System's August 11th trip to Discovery Times Square in New York City! What makes this trip different than those previous? This summer the museum has introduced the only East Coast exhibition of China's Terracotta Warriors. It is your chance to get up close and personal with an archaeological find that has been considered the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient World. The warriors are a national treasure for China and have been under excavation since their inadvertent discovery in 1974. If you are not familiar with the story, let's bring you up to speed:

It began as these things usually do, with simple folk going about the business of everyday life, eking out a living to support their families. Foremost in their minds was the need to find water to support their village, never did they imagine that the basic act of digging a well would reveal the archaeological find of the century.

The excavation started out as any other dig, but the magnitude and scope of the project quickly became apparent as scientists found that the site extended approximately 16,000 meters. Thus, in 1975, the State Council authorized the building of a museum at the site, which is divided into three pits, encompassing over 7,000 pottery warriors, horses and chariots!

The army was created during the reign of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who is famous for unifying China’s warring states, and for beginning construction of the Great Wall. The warriors were intended to guard his tomb and replicate his living army. It is estimated that it took over 700,000 people 37 years to complete all of the figures, which are life-sized and painstakingly, individually detailed, with no two exactly alike.

One of the dismaying aspects of the excavation was that the once bright paint that brought the warriors to life would flake off within hours of exposure to the air. It was not until recently that a team of German scientists created a substance to coat the warriors and preserve their unique colors. Apparently it was the lacquer layer underneath the paint that would dry up as the air hit it, taking the paint as well. It is now hoped that as the excavations continue, more the warriors will be preserved with their original colors.

The current exhibit at Discovery Times Square, in addition to several of the actual restored warriors, includes Han Dynasty Burial Chamber gates, cooking utensils, weapons, jewelry and ritual items in a collection of over 200 artifacts more than 2,000 years old. By this point we're sure we have aroused your curiosity about these amazing artifacts, and want to know all about when to go and how to get there. The Park System wants to make it easy for you to see this amazing exhibit! On Saturday, August 11, we will be leaving Thompson Park by bus and heading to New York City for the day. Fees include timed admission ticket, round trip transportation, and Park System leader. There will be free time for you to enjoy the city and have lunch on your own. Register now!

Staff Contributor: Ann Sage, Cultural Services Division

Note: The Park System has a wide variety of trips scheduled every year! Check out the Fall Directory (to be released on August 10) for trips that will include: Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum; The Best of the Bronx; Total Amish Experience; Grounds for Sculpture; Brooklyn Bridge Walking Tour; Montreal, Quebec & Vermont Overnight and so much more!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Experience the Outdoors with Family & Friends

There's something about relaxing around a campfire telling stories with family and friends that makes daily stresses and troubles melt away, if at least for a while. Camping with family increases a sense of togetherness and allows for a time without modern distractions. So leave the television and video games behind (and even the handheld devices) and go camping!

Get out in the woods while staying close to home at the Turkey Swamp Park Family Campgrounds in Freehold, New Jersey. The campgrounds, open from April 1 through November 15, offer facilities for both tent camping and travel trailers. Of the 64 sites, 52 are available by reservation and 12 are available on a first come, first serve basis. Looking for great campground amenities to make your trip rustic yet still comfortable one? We've got 'em:
  • Wooded campsites
  • Electrical service
  • Water service
  • Drinking water
  • Modern restroom with hot showers and laundry machines
  • Dump station
  • Fire rings for charcoal cooking and campfires
  • Picnic tables
  • Children's playground
  • Pay phones
  • Vending machines
  • Quiet hours from 10pm-7am
Paddleboat Rentals at the Lake!But Turkey Swamp Park offers more than just campsites. While there, make sure to enjoy all the park has to offer:
  • A lake where you can fish for bass, catfish, and bluegills. (Visitors must have a NJ fishing license - not required for those under 16.)
  • Rentals of canoes, rowboats, kayaks, and paddleboats.
  • Nine miles of multiple use trails great for hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians.
  • Plenty of open space to fly a kite or toss a ball around.
For those who don't have a tent or trailer, the campground also two comfortable cabins (one ADA accessible). The cabins feature a double bed, two sets of bunk beds, lights and electrical outlets. Outside each cabin is a water spigot and picnic area with a fire pit.

There's nothing stopping you but yourself! Reserve your site today by calling (732) 462-7286 (after 11am daily) or by filling out the Reservation Request Form.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July is Park and Recreation Month!

Since 1985, July has been celebrated as the nation's official Park and Recreation Month to encourage communities to go out and visit their local parks. This year, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is encouraging communities to get out and GET WILD about parks and recreation: "You just can’t help but have fun this July, all while expressing the many valuable benefits of parks and recreation!"
Celebrate Park and Recreation Month by visiting and having fun with us! Here are some ways to enjoy our parks this July (click the event/location link for additional information, dates and times):
  • Take a short nature walk with our Roving Park System Naturalist on July 1, July 13 & July 21. Free!
  • Discover what lives in the waters of Sandy Hook Bay with your family during one of our Summer Seining Drop-In programs on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 11am-12pm at Bayshore Waterfront Park, Port Monmouth. Free!
  • Get out on the water with an Eco-Kayak Drop-In Tour on the Navesink, July 3, 10 & 12, where a Park System Naturalist will guide you down the river for a leisurely paddle. Fee: $20.00 per person (cash or check only).
  • Move past your fears during our Drop-In Zip Line on July 7 at the Old Orchard Parking Lot, Thompson Park, Lincroft. Ages 12 and up. Fee: $10.00 per person (cash or check only).
  • Enjoy a leisurely paddle on Marlu Lake in Thompson Park, Lincroft, by renting a canoe on July 7, 8, 14 & 15. Fee: $15.00 per boat for 1-3 people for 2 hours (cash or check only).
  • Learn about Bald eagles, local animals, and insects with free weekend drop-in programs all month long at the Manasquan Reservoir Environmental Center, Howell.
  • Take a step back in history! Head to one of our historic sites for some terrific free drop-in activities this July. For more information, click on Historic Longstreet Farm or Historic Walnford.
  • Try your hands at archery during Open Shoot Archery at the Thompson Park Activity Barn, Lincroft on July 8 & 17. Fee: $5.00 per person (cash or check only).
  • Tee off with us! Enjoy one of our many golf courses! Even compete in one of our tournaments!
  • Take the kids to any of our wonderful playgrounds to release some energy and have some fun!
  • Really get wild during this year's Monmouth County Fair with rides, games, food, and SO MUCH MORE from Wednesday-Sunday, July 25-29.
  • Kids love the Park System's fun and exciting summer camps. Give your children a summer they'll never forget!
These are just some of the things that the Monmouth County Park System parks have to offer this July! Visit our website to view all of the wonderful facilities the Park System has to offer...from trails to fishing to boating and more. So get wild in the parks with us and celebrate National Park and Recreation month.